Jump to content

When Are You Too Old To Learn Thai?


Recommended Posts

Bua is standard Thai. Seng is slang.


Thanks for that Flash, I learned something new yet again.


Is "Seng" Isaan slang or generic across all dialects? Was my ex wife (Tham Grad Masters in USA, Ubon born but BKK educated) just teaching me slang words and therefore dumbing me down or just reverting to true colours? who knows yet my state Uni wife now from Lampang always uses bua and corrects me if I say seng, I have the bruises to prove it.


An interesting part of the VDO you posted was the use of Yin Dee Khrap (or Jindee as the subtitles say) as meaning Thank You, whereas I have always used it to mean "You are Welcome" or "No Problem"


Take a scenario I have experienced numerous of times, being a smoker we are forced outside, I am stood there smoking and a Thai comes out for a smoke and has no lighter


Khor Fai Chak mai Khrap?

Thini Khrap (handing over lighter)

Khop khun khrap or more often than not the abridged version Khapom (as lighter handed back)

Yin Dee Khrap


It always works and the message gets across but am I mixing standard Thai and Slang in the same conversation or am I using yin dee in it's correct context?


The more I know the less I understand.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I honestly don't believe anyone is "too old" to learn Thai. I don't think there's a study out there which shows older people have a diminished capacity for learning. As adults we most definitely "learn" things differently than children but that doesn't always equate to being "slower" at learning than younger people. We store and process information differently as adults.


The biggest impediment to learning Thai I see with "older people" here (as in adults over 50) is their lack of motivation and dedication to learn, NOT in their inability to do it. I've heard the same totally bull-sh*t excuses time and again, "I'm not good with languages", "I'm tone deaf", my thai (in)significant other "she sa-peak engrish good", etc. You don't learn Thai because you don't have the motivation to, plain and simple.


Learning this language takes time TONZ of it, it takes dedication and practice. I also takes the desire to really want to communicate with these people in their language (mostly due to their abysmal grasp of even rudimentary engrish skills). If any one of those components is missing, you're gonna fall short of the mark..


You're most likely NOT tone deaf as only 4% of the world's population is truly tone deaf. When you say you can't hear the tones in Thai, it's because; native English speakers use tones to impart emotional value to what's being said. In fact if you're a native English speaker you routinely use ALL FIVE of the tones the Thai language has every single day. In Thai they have ending particles which convey that emotive value in what's being said. That's because Thai you can't vary the tone of the word (or the vowel length) without it becoming another word entirely. You're just listening for the tones in Thai sentences for the wrong reasons.. You hafta re-train your ears to hear the difference in the tone of particular words.


Believe me any foreigner who really wants to learn Thai most definitely can. I mean ther're about 67+ million Thais here who seem to read, write and speak Thai just fine. I'm pretty sure they ALL ain't smarter than you are. Then again, given some of the posers, err posters on forums about Thailand, maybe I'm wrong. . .


FWIW: I've never ever heard the phrase ยินดีที่ได้รู้จัà¸à¸„ุณ (Pleased to meet you) spoken by a Thai in real life. I have heard it as a "spoon-fed" phrase taught to foreigners in Thai langauge schools, but not once in meeting thousands of Thais here have I heard it. I do use ยินดี in situations like the one outlined by "Mekong" with a Thai borrowing their lighter, and there's nothing "slangy" about the constructs they used. That's boiler plate Central Thai...


BTW: There's nothing wrong with saying the word เซ็ง to mean bored, it's just a colloquial way of saying เบื่อ, it's not even "slang" although the phrase เซ็งเป็ด (bored duck) means are bored sh*tless with something goin' on.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

"I have heard it as a "spoon-fed" phrase taught to foreigners in Thai langauge schools ..."


The Peace Corps used to use the old Mary Haas material, written for the OSS in World War II! When we spoke it to Thais, they'd ask why we sounded so old fashioned. :p


Later PC material was much more conversational, based on the AUA books written by the Marvin Brown.




Remembering Mary Haas's Work on Thai



With Japan's incursions into Southeast Asia in the 1940's, some knowledge of the languages of the area came to be viewed as essential to the war effort. The nation's linguists were recruited to study Far Eastern languages, and ordered to produce practical handbooks, teaching grammars and vocabularies, as quickly as possible.




To Mary Haas fell the task of describing the national language of the only country of Southeast Asia that had escaped colonization, Thailand. Given the near total dearth of teaching materials on Thai in those days, Haas, like Cornyn and Emeneau, had to learn her language from scratch, through direct elicitation from native speakers, which was no big problem for her. She merely applied the classic fieldwork techniques she had honed to a high degree of perfection in her work on Amerindian languages to this new language of utterly different phonological and grammatical structure: from the Southeast United States, where she had worked on Tunica and Natchez, to Southeast Asia -- an effortless intellectual leap!




Her book Spoken Thai (1945-48), co-authored with her then-husband, Heng R. Subhanka, was the culmination of this early work, and constituted the high-water mark of the Holt "Spoken Language Series".


With hindsight it is easy to criticize Spoken Thai on the grounds that the style of its dialogues is sometimes unnaturally formal and polite. Thus the English sentence "Where are you going?" is rendered by khun kamlaÅ‹ càʔ paj naÌŒj khraÌb?, with the honorific pronoun khun, the polite masculine final particle khraÌb, and the Khmer-derived progressive modal auxiliary kamlaÅ‹ càʔ 'be...ING'; though in most contexts of actual usage one is far more likely to hear simply paj naÌŒj? (literally "Go where?"). Yet it was essential to sensitize the American student to the fact that Thai is a language with highly codified levels of politeness based on such factors as age, status, and gender.


It is just as unfair to fault Spoken Thai for over-formality as it would be to attack it for the traditionally practical nature of the content of its lessons (e.g. The Bank, The Post Office, The Doctor). It behooves us rather to appreciate this pioneering book for its manifold excellences: the clarity and accuracy of its grammatical notes, and the insight displayed in the organization of its drills and pattern practices.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Languages change and evolve over time,so its not surprising that a guide written in the 40`s should now be out of date.That must have been an interesting job,learning Thai from scratch with no books or teachers to learn from :surprised: The book I used to learn stressed the use of " crap " :grinyes: ....when I first arrived I was adding " crap " onto the end of all sentances....I must have sounded ridiculous :doah:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

re: heavy use of Krap --> You probably sounded polite and courteous, better in Thailand to error on that side. I think to Thais it can be very important. My impression at least.


I'm used to hearing people say bua jang loy. :) (Hopefully not in reference to me). Bua has that funky eu pronunciation, I don't know a way to romanize it. It's an easy word to say wrong and confuse people (I know from experience).


IMHO learning a language is like learning a musical instrument. Repetition and practice are essential. Then you can get creative.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The book I used to learn stressed the use of " crap " :grinyes: ....when I first arrived I was adding " crap " onto the end of all sentances....I must have sounded ridiculous :doah:


ps. I can be a little dense at times. It just occurred to me that you were literally saying crap (with 'a' as in apple sound) frequently in conversation. Yes, I'm sure that was very interesting for those poor Thai folks on the receiving end. :)



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...